D150 Gets Budget Advice

The Peoria District 150 school board is getting some advice for preparing its current fiscal year budget after ending the school year with a nearly $5.8-million deficit.

Chief Financial Officer Mark Wilcockson told school board Monday night it should prepare for stagnant property tax revenue and uncertain state and federal funding.

The District's employment headcount is about the same as during the previous fiscal year but, while they should reflect enrollment changes and program needs, employment levels should also keep pace with the market. Wilcockson says salaries and benefits comprise almost 80 percent of District 150's spending and wage hikes have already been negotiated.

When it comes to finding ways to save money, Wilcockson says everything is on the table.

"When 80 percent of your costs are increasing and revenue's flat, it's just like managing your household budget," says Wilcockson. "You have to figure out how the revenues and expenditures get closer in a line with each other."

Wilcockson says he's aware several school buildings need upgrading. As an example, 7 schools are partially air-conditioned and four other schools have none. However, utility bills will go up this fiscal year to the tune of 2.5 percent for electricity and 5.5 percent for gas.

Wilcockson says the board will have to come up with alternative ways to pay for any school improvements.

"At some point it's either property taxes or sales tax," Wilcockson warns. "There are no large state capital programs out there.  It's going to be upon the people of Peoria to help support those schools."

Wilcockson will formally present a tentative fiscal 2015 during the school board's next meeting August 25.

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